Sunday, March 06, 2022

Stalin Road

 Back in September, I was in Colchester visiting relatives when this picture was taken:

There's a post-war estate that contains Churchill Way, Roosevelt Way, and - more controversially - Stalin Road.

This was featured in the local newspaper back in 2009, when it reported that only four out of thirty households responding to a poll wanted the name to change. It was back in the newspaper the other day though, in a more recent article that partly repeats the older one. This article was also reprinted further afield. However, this also gives more detail of the debate at the time.

First, it reports a tweet from the council (which I haven't located) according to which changing the road name would require consent from 75% of the residents. (It's not clear whether that's 75% of those who vote, or 75% of all residents - making abstention an effective no vote.) That's interesting, given that I've been teaching majority rule lately. Here we have an example of bias towards the status quo, as often used in cases of constitutional entrenchment.

Second, it reports disagreement over who should have standing here. One resident is quoted as saying, "it should be our decision" because it is the residents who would be inconvenienced by a change of address. On the other hand, another letter argued that the name is an embarrassment to Colchester (and even Britain) and that residents don't have the right to choose the name of their road. (For the record though, I think the latter point is something of a non-sequitur. The residents here didn't choose Stalin Road. Their objection is to having the existing name changed.)

This is also interesting, given that I've recently been discussing the so-called 'boundary problem' with students on my democratic theory module. This is a case where it's not clear what the relevant 'demos' is. If not the residents of the road in question, then who should it be? Everyone in Colchester? Everyone in Britain? What about residents of the former USSR?

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